by Tony Seahorn
Reading and reflecting on Jan’s recent blog made me realize – one more time — that life is truly fragile.
The Vietnam War was a life changing event for the countless veterans and families who were directly impacted, including me.
For those of us who were fortunate to return from the field of battle, the everyday living of life will continue to be defined by what we experienced then.
Fast forward to the present day – 2014.
In May, following recovery from knee surgery at the Cheyenne, WY VA Hospital, I had my annual physical – including EGK and Treadmill Test. Other than the fact that the cardiologist reminded me I’m no longer 21, the physical and other tests all looked good.
Periodically I have chest pain as a result of remaining shrapnel and scar tissue from combat wounds; cardiovascular tests have always been negative for heart problems.
During our annual Wounded Warrior Event in late June, I was guiding a wounded veteran during high-water run-off on the Upper North Platte River. Unfortunately a raft from a separate river party encountered a dangerous log strainer in the main river current and capsized their raft. Three of the rafters made it to shore while a fourth person was submerged and pinned beneath the raft under the huge log jam.
I was able to secure my drift boat and veteran in a small backwater and spent the next hour in vain trying to rescue the rafting victim. The water was freezing and after an exhausting attempt, I was unable to save the trapped person. The time spent in the water subjected me to hyperthermia, but I eventually recovered sufficiently to continue the river float as the day warmed.
In late July, I spent a week with our two sons in Montana on a fly fishing adventure. Toward the end of the week, we were climbing out of the Yellowstone River Canyon when I began to experience mild chest pain. By walking slowly and resting I was able to resume our hike and had no problem for the remainder of the trip.
In September, my VA doctor wanted to perform a follow-up exam on intermittent pain I was having in my right shoulder and chest from what we thought was caused by shrapnel. During the tests, an abnormality was found on the EKG and Treadmill that did not exist during my physical in May.
An electrocardiogram located a blockage in my main exterior frontal lobe artery. A heart procedure was performed via my femoral artery and a stint placed in mid-October. The team of Cardiologists concluded that I must have experienced a minor heart attack during the river rescue recovery in June. The cold water and lower body temperature prevented any pain or other potential damage.
As fate would have it, a week following the heart procedure, I was rushed to the local ER for severe stomach bleeding. Prescribed Plavix blood thinner combined with high doses of pain medication is not a good combination. Three emergency surgeries later and 8 units of whole blood finally stopped the bleeding. My hospital stay: 4 days ICU and 3 days recovery and monitoring.
Now 15 pounds lighter, I’m still weak and lack energy, but hopefully on the high road to recovery.
Life is full of challenges as well as an abundance of blessings! Today my black lab, Hunter Bailey and I are going pheasant hunting.
Life is good.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Reflecting back on October:
“At the very core of my being, I find peace.” (Daily Word, Oct. 2014). Nope! Not yet! Hopefully, later. It’s a beautiful fall day, warm, brilliant colored trees show off their multi-colored leaves, and I am trying desperately to find peace. It is the second time in three weeks that Tony and I are at the Denver Veteran Hospital in the cardiology unit. The first time doctors were going to try and clear a blockage of a major artery in his heart by putting in a stint. Unfortunately, the first try was unsuccessful. Surgeons found a total obstruction in the artery so they had to pull out and create a new game plan.
So, we are back for a more complex procedure. As many of you know, hospitals, although a tremendous blessing, are not the happiest space to spend time. The sights, sounds, smells… all put many vets back to darker times. Times when violence, pain, and life/death issues surrounded the individual in places filled with anguish and loneliness.
As I sit in the waiting area, it is busy… people walking in and out, not all that comfortable surrounded by walls painted a pretty ugly shade of green. Looking through the various home magazines I want to get a bucket of paint and start slopping the walls with bright yellows, light blues, or even a lovely burnt orange. My interior decorator screams to be let loose to redo these dreary areas. In my mind, to keep it off the immediate situation my husband now faces, I am redecorating the entire hospital.
Periodically I have to get up and walk around, if for no other reason than to stretch my legs and ease my cramped back. Walking into the main lobby is disheartening. So many wounded warriors, many down on their luck and struggling to find any sense of hope or happiness in the world, sitting in uncomfortable chairs waiting – waiting for help physically and emotionally.
So, I walk over to a private hospital just across the street. The lobby is huge, spacious and sparse in its furniture, and almost empty of people except those at the information desk. The walls are tastefully painted, flooded with light. The people are calm and possess a look and feeling of well-being. I want to stay in this area of sunshine to wait, but am reluctant because my body and heart knows it needs to be nearer to where Tony is being treated.
I’m trying to find peace. Gratitude is not my issue. I’m filled with it. Grateful for the amazing nurses, doctors, and selfless volunteers dedicated to supporting our veterans. Yet, this space where warriors wait to be healed is anything but peace-filled for me. What comes to my mind is the sign in front of every veteran hospital in our nation…. “The Price of Freedom is Visible Here”. I wonder how many non-veterans have ever been in a VA hospital. Perhaps not that many. Perhaps more should visit to see firsthand the continued sacrifice being given every day. And, perhaps, they would realize that there can never be enough gratitude, enough service we give to those who served us so well.